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Copernicus: new name for European Earth Observation Programme

Copernicus is the new name of the European Commission’s Earth Observation Programme, previously known as GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security). The new name was announced today by Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani during the Competitiveness Council.

In a world facing an increased risk of natural and other disasters Copernicus aims to monitor the state of the environment on land, at sea and in the atmosphere and also to improve citizens’ security. At the same time, Copernicus is a driver for economic growth and employment, with the potential to create up to 85 000 new jobs over the period 2015-2030, according to a recent study (see IP/12/1304).

Why rename GMES? Why choose the name Copernicus?

All Copernicus’s services will soon enter into the operational phase. User take-up will soon follow because of the greater data availability. The new name will help to raise awareness about Copernicus at all geographical and socio-economic levels — thus creating opportunities for growth and jobs. There will be a special focus on regional and local actors, be they public authorities, private businesses or citizens.

By choosing the name Copernicus we are paying homage to a great European scientist and observer: Nicolaus Copernicus. The Copernicus theory of the heliocentric universe is considered by many to be the main precursor of modern science. He opened to man an infinite universe, previously limited by the rotation of the planets and the sun around the Earth, and created a world without borders. Humanity was able to benefit from his insight and this set in motion the spirit of scientific research which allowed us to have a better understanding of the world we live in.


Copernicus consists of a set of services which collect data and provide information using satellites and terrestrial sensors to observe the environment and the natural phenomena occurring on the planet.

The Copernicus programme is not only a tool to improve the quality of life of European citizens, but also has the potential to become a major contributor to Europe’s strategy for growth and employment. Copernicus does not replace existing European capacities, but rather complements them with a view to fulfilling user needs and guaranteeing sustainability and European autonomy in the long term.

Copernicus enhances our safety in numerous ways, for example by better management of natural disasters, allowing for earlier intervention, thereby helping to prevent loss of life and damage to property. It also delivers reliable information for monitoring and predicting climate change.

Copernicus helps to improve the management of our natural resources, monitors the quality of the atmosphere and the oceans, helps optimise our agricultural activities and promote renewable energy. It allows better planning of our cities by monitoring urban sprawl and easing the flow of transportation.

European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “By changing the name from GMES to Copernicus we are paying homage to a great European scientist and observer: Nicolaus Copernicus. As he was the catalyst in the 16th century to better understand our world, so the European Earth Observation Programme gives us a thorough understanding of our changing planet, enabling concrete actions to improve the quality of life of the citizens. Copernicus has now reached maturity as a programme and all its services will enter soon into the operational phase. Thanks to greater data availability user take-up will increase, thus contributing to that growth that we so dearly need today”.

MEMO/12/966 (Description of Copernicus)

Copernicus website